Guilty or Not Guilty- When lying hurts you!

This week I served on my first jury in downtown Detroit. It was a surreal experience. When I would see crimes reported on T.V, I wouldn’t hesitate to say he/she is guilty. Lock them up. In the courtroom it’s not that cut and dry. You have someones fate in your hands and it’s a lot of pressure to “get it right.”

We all know that people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty and that it’s up to the prosecution to prove guilt. But I think that’s a hard thing for people to do. The judge instructed us to only look at the evidence presented.

We easily decided the first, more serious charge. He wasn’t guilty. The second lesser charge took two days to reach a verdict. Why? Because we were a very diverse group and the way we live our lives was so completely different. I enjoyed the debate. I loved the different perspectives. But in the end it was the law and whether he broke it or not that mattered. For me, his confession was the only thing I was considering. In the end we did find him guilty on the lessor charge.

When the case was over and I was free to discuss the case, people would ask why didn’t we convict on both charges. It was in the realm of possibility that he indeed commited the first crime. But there was so much reasonable doubt that we had no choice but to find him not guilty.

The reason for that. The victim lied. The young man had been too worried about his family and friends being mad about what precipitated the event that he made up a whopper of a story. After the police arrested the suspect and he told his story , they went back to the young man and confronted him and he changed his story yet again. When he took the stand it was easy to tell he was still lying and I believe it was still out of fear of his people getting pissed at him.

There are several things I’ve learned over the years, the “tells” people have when they lie. Most of the time it’s so they can get out of all kinds of trouble.

THE ONES WHERE THEY TELL ENOUGH TRUTH BUT LEAVE OUT MOST OF THE STORY- I learned this one from my 17 yr old son. He used to try and tell me a story when he got into trouble and inevitably I would discover there was a hell of a lot he left out. Why? According to him he felt that he wasn’t lying if he was telling me some of what happened (Enough that I would believe him). He did this to avoid me getting angry and he getting into more trouble. Once I caught on its now hard to pull it on me again.

REPEATING YOUR QUESTION BACK TO YOU- I think this one is my favorite. When you ask someone a question where they might get into trouble, they will repeat your question back to you. Why? They need those few extra seconds to come up with the “right” answer.  If you pay close attention you will see a second of panic before they answer you.

ANSWERING A QUESTION WITH A QUESTION- This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. You ask a difficult question, the answer may get them into trouble so they deflect. They ask a question in return, hoping to steer the conversation back on you. As though you’re imagining things and you’re the one with the problem ie. you’re insecure, you’re paranoid, you’re being silly, or ridiculous and finally that you don’t trust them.

THE EYE AVERSION- When you ask a question and they have no problem looking at you until the second they answer and suddenly their eyes look elsewhere.I think this is one of the most common signs of a big fat fibber.

THEY DON’T LOOK AT YOU AT ALL- Even while you’re trying to talk to them they look at the T.V. or fiddle with something. It’s frustrating because all you want is for them to pay attention to what you’re saying and instead they have no reaction.

THE ONE WORD ANSWER- When they only answer you with yes or no and offer no follow up.

THEY STARE AT YOU AND THEIR FOREHEAD WRINKLES UP-You think finally they’re looking directly at you. They are quick to answer your questions but that damn wrinkle won’t go away.

THEY ASK YOU TO REPEAT THE QUESTION- You bloody well know they heard you the first time. Again this is to stall in order for them to come up with the “right” answer.

THEY SUDDENLY BECOME AFFECTIONATE- This is a rather deceptive diversion. They try to make you feel like they would never do something that you’re asking about. Wrapping you up with really sweet words and suddenly you let go of what ever was bothering you in the first place.

We all know the signs, deep down. But we choose to ignore them most of the time. Everyone tells the little white lies. But we’ve also ignored even the bigger stuff. We choose not to go down that road. Why upset the balance in your life?

The truth is that a lot of the time we don’t really want to know the answers. We’re afraid of what we might hear and choose to ignore what we feel in our gut. It’s easier  to pretend you don’t know they’re lying then to face the truth.

Kids, significant others, friends etc…Do this shit all the time. The reasons are endless and really, really sad. I find myself feeling sorry for most people. They are ruled by fear and insecurity and will do anything to avoid getting into trouble. It’s self-preservation, an instinct that we follow even though we know it’s wrong.

The victim in our case told a lie so that others wouldn’t be angry with him at what really happened. Did I feel bad for him. Absolutely, but I wasn’t going to send a man to prison for many years based on a lie.

I was one of those people who was praying I wouldn’t get picked for the jury. I’m glad I was because I learned some lessons. You can never assume someone else is automatically guilty. When it comes to trying to find out facts that will cause issues or pain, you can’t run from them. Eventually lies do catch up and you’ll then be faced with the question of whether you can trust that person ever again.

I’ve discovered when it comes to self-preservation people will go to any lengths to keep others from knowing the full truth. I hope the young man in this case learned that the consequences for not being truthful or only telling a small part of the story is too high a price to pay. I hope he understands that you need to tell the truth no matter how much trouble you may get in. Because once you’ve been caught in the big lies, people tend not to believe much of what you say.





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